It’s game over for rapper “The Game’s” 7th Circuit appeal of more than $7 million in damages that a federal jury awarded to a woman he publicly sexually assaulted then trashed on social media.
The rapper, whose real name is Jayceon T. Taylor, appealed a jury verdict in a lawsuit brought against him by Florida realtor and entrepreneur Priscilla Rainey. She sued Taylor for sexually assaulting her while she was a contestant on a VH1 reality show he hosted called “She’s Got Game.”
Judge Diane Sykes described the show as “an imitation of the long-running reality dating series The Bachelor.” Sykes describes “The Game” as “an internationally known, Grammy-nominated rap artist. For a brief time, he was also a minor reality-show star.”
“In May 2015, while the show was filming in Chicago, Rainey and Taylor went on an off-camera date in apparent violation of the competition rules. Taylor took Rainey to a suburban sports bar, and at one point during the evening, they were on an elevated stage in full view of club patrons. With a stage light shining on them, Taylor lifted Rainey’s skirt and grabbed her bare buttocks and vagina. She tried to break away, but he did it again — this time lifting her rear end up and exposing her intimate parts to the gawking crowd. As Rainey struggled to push him away and lower her skirt, he grabbed her bare buttocks and vagina a third time. He also grabbed and ‘juggled’ her breasts for the entertainment of the onlookers,” Sykes wrote.
“Three days later Rainey confronted Taylor about the assault. The two were on the show’s tour bus with other cast members, and a film crew caught the entire exchange on camera. The video begins with another contestant announcing that Rainey had a secret date with Taylor (that’s cheating, as we said) and returned to the hotel visibly upset,” Sykes wrote.
“Rainey responded that she told the crew about it but no one else. Taylor then reminded her that he had instructed her not to mention it to anybody — and ‘don’t mention it means don’t mention it.’ A heated argument ensued. Rainey repeatedly tried to tell him that she had a ‘problem’ with what had happened and was ‘bothered’ by it. Taylor angrily commanded her to keep quiet: ‘What you can do is be a woman and shut up, like you can shut up right now.’ She did not shut up. Instead, she described the assault in graphic detail. After an expletive-laden exchange, Taylor ordered her to ‘[g]et off this bus before you get your ass strangled’ and threatened to ‘choke [her] ass up.’”
Rainey sued Taylor for sexual battery before the show’s debut in August 2015.
“Taylor did not take the litigation seriously,” Sykes wrote. “He evaded process, trolled Rainey on social media, dodged a settlement conference, and did not bother to show up at trial. His attorney asked for a continuance, but the judge denied that request, dismissing Taylor’s proﬀered excuse as an elaborate ruse.” Taylor had claimed he could not risk going to court in Chicago due to a recent weekend of gun violence, which Sykes termed “feigning concern” as part of a pattern of Taylor’s “dilatory conduct.”
“The judge instructed the jurors that they could infer from Taylor’s absence that his testimony would have been unfavorable to him. The jury returned a verdict for Rainey, awarding her $1.13 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages.”
In upholding the district court’s damages verdict, the 7th Circuit rejected Taylor’s arguments that, among other things, challenged the district court’s denial of a continuance and its missing-witness instruction to the jury.
“Taylor has only himself to blame for the missing-witness instruction, which was plainly justified,” the panel ruled in Priscilla Rainey v. Jayceon Taylor, 16-4153 and 18-2990. “The verdict is well supported by the evidence, and we see no reason to disturb the jury’s determination of damages. The compensatory award is not excessive under Illinois law, and the punitive award survives constitutional scrutiny.”
The punitive damages award also met the reprehensible conduct standard laid out in State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408, 419 (2003), the panel concluded.
“This was a particularly degrading act of sexual objectiﬁcation. The conduct satisﬁes several of the variables identiﬁed in State Farm: (1) it was an intentional inﬂiction of physical harm; (2) it demonstrated a reckless disregard for Rainey’s health and safety; and (3) Taylor continued to grope and expose Rainey’s most intimate body parts even after she protested, so his misconduct was both repetitious and malicious. … Taylor also launched a series of vile public attacks against Rainey on social media.”
Finally, the panel held that the ratio between compensatory and punitive damages under the circumstances of the case was not unreasonable.